Historic preservation could thwart plan to replace Nye's bar with apartments

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A plan to replace the iconic Nye's Polonaise Room in Minneapolis with an apartment building has barely started, but could already face an uphill challenge to get approved.

The owners of the legendary bar in Nordeast revealed they plan to close the business next year and have partnered with a Twin Cities developer to refurbish the site into a mixed-use apartment building.

But the Star Tribune reports that the city's historic preservation policies could hinder attempts to knock down the bar, in East Hennepin Avenue.

The site is made up of four buildings, two of which are former saloon and harness shops that date back to the early 1900s, and the newspaper notes that developers may have to prove these two buildings are structurally unsafe or that there is no possible alternative use for them in order to overcome preservation orders.

"Any development that’s going to go there has got to incorporate the historical character," Council Member Jacob Frey told the newspaper. "And that harness building adds to the neighborhood quite a bit."

The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission will be charged with reviewing any development plans before the city can take action on the project, given its location as part of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District.

Nye's owner Rob Jacob said he was not sure if the two buildings could be incorporated into an apartment project, but did not they had required regular repairs over the years, the Star Tribune notes.

Bar's business downturn

Jacob told the Pioneer Press that he plans to close up by next September at the latest, saying the bar had struggled to make money in recent years, citing lackluster food sales and the impact of the financial downturn.

In 2006, Esquire named Nye's as "the best bar in America", saying going to the venue was "like stepping back in time", with its polka music and vintage decor proving a hit with patrons.

News of the bars closure prompted mixed reactions among Twin Cities residents on Reddit, with some disappointed at the loss of the iconic venue, others thinking it was a bar in decline, while others argued that those complaining hadn't themselves done enough to keep it open.

"It seems that while many are making a big deal about it, 99% of them haven't been there in years," Reddit user TheMacMan said. If they have, it was a rare drink and that's about it. It's a bit silly to act like it's such a big deal."

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